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Can Sleep Apnea Cause Alzheimer’s Disease

Classification Of Hippocampal A Plaque Burden

“Can poor sleep cause Alzheimer’s?” with Dr. Bryce Mander

A plaques were staged according to the criteria described by Thal and colleagues for AD pathogenesis . If no plaques could be seen, then the section was given a classification of Phase 0. Brains were classified as Phase 1 if A plaques were limited to the parahippocampal gyrus and/or the occipitotemporal gyrus. When plaques were present in the subiculum and CA1 as well as in the parahippocampal and/or occipitotemporal gyrus, the brain was classified as Phase 2. If plaques extended into CA2/CA3 and the molecular layer of the dentate gyrus, then the brain was classified as Phase 3. If plaques were also present in the hilus and throughout CA4, then the brain was classified as Phase 4 .

Puzzles Card Games Later In Life May Delay Alzheimers Onset By Five Years

Maybe its time to cut your buzzsaw spouse a break.

Heavy snorers may have higher accumulations of the toxic protein tau a bio-hallmark of Alzheimers disease in the part of the brain that manages memory, navigation and perception of time, according to a new study released Sunday by the Mayo Clinic.

The new evidence, to be presented May 4-10 at the American Academy of Neurologys annual meeting in Philadelphia, supports a major link between an increased risk for dementia and sleep disruption.

Thats especially true for obstructive sleep apnea, researchers say, which is a potentially serious disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops during sleep, researchers say. Using the population-based Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, researchers identified 288 people 65 and older who did not have dementia.

Our research results raise the possibility that sleep apnea affects tau accumulation, says lead study author Dr. Diego Z. Carvalho, a neurology fellow at Mayo, in a statement.

Participants were asked to track when their snoring bed partners stopped breathing during sleep then brain scans looked for a buildup of the toxic protein in the entorhinal cortex, the brain zone deep behind the nose thats most susceptible to tau accumulation.

The bottom line: Yes, theres a link between snoring, apnea, tau and Alzheimers but its a chicken-and-egg problem, Carvalho says, pointing to the conundrum of which comes first as an underlying cause.

Sleep Apnea And Dementia

Bills little motor vehicle accident was a blessing in disguise. He was referred for a sleep study which revealed severe obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially treatable medical condition. Bill was suffering from a common disorder that, like radio dramas famous Shadow, has the power to cloud mens minds. And womens minds, too, although researchers think womens higher progesterone levels may stimulate breathing and reduce the likelihood of apnea. Sleep apnea is considered a risk factor for dementia. People with sleep apnea have been shown not only to have impaired memory and executive function, but also biomarker changes that are associated with Alzheimers disease.

Also Check: What Diseases Are Similar To Alzheimer’s

Are You Concerned That You Or A Loved One May Have Sleep Apnea Take The Interactive Sleepiness Quiz And Share The Results With Your Doctor:

  • Yaffe, K. et al., . Sleep-disordered breathing, hypoxia, and risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia in older women. JAMA, 306 , 613-619. PubMed
  • Peter-Derex, L. et al., ;. Sleep and Alzheimers disease. Sleep Med Rev., 19, 29-38. PubMed
  • Osario , R.S. et al., . Sleep-disordered breathing advances cognitive decline in the elderly. Neurology, 84 , 1964-1971. PubMed
  • Cooke, J.R. et al. . Sustained use of CPAP slows deterioration of cognition, sleep, and mood in patients with Alzheimers disease and obstructive sleep apnea: a preliminary study. J Clin Sleep Med., 5, 305-309. PubMed
  • Troussière, A.C. et al. . Treatment of sleep apnoea syndrome decreases cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimers disease. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 85, 1405-1408. PubMed
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    Scientific Study Of The Link Between Alzheimers And Sleep Apnea Is Still Ongoing But Connections Are Emerging

    Another Study Links Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Alzheimer ...

    Alzheimers disease is the most common cause of dementia. The National Institute on Aging reports that more than 5 million Americans may have the disease.;

    The disease progressively degenerates the brain that over time impairs memory and thinking skills, eventually shutting the body down completely. While it usually shows up in people over 60, Alzheimers disease is not considered a normal part of aging. Its currently the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.

    More than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea. Given the evidence that the two disorders interact, and these numbers point to a significant health problem.

    A high percentage of people that develop loss of memory and thinking abilities or dementia due to Alzheimers disease have altered sleep, says David Holtzman, M.D., professor and chairman of the department of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St.Louis, MO. There is also emerging evidence that when the brain changes of Alzheimers disease begin, but before memory and thinking problems, sleep starts to become abnormal.

    Researchers are still trying to figure out whether sleep apnea increases the risk of Alzheimers disease, and if so by how much. A recent study gives some indication. In the study, researchers at the University of San Francisco determined that the women with sleep apnea were nearly twice as likely to develop cognitive impairment as they aged ^1.

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    Snoring Sleep Apnea Linked To Memory Loss

    Research has shown that sleep apnea is quite common in older adults, affecting as many as 53 percent of men and 26 percent of women. And many go undiagnosed, experts say.

    Varga and his colleagues reviewed the medical histories of 2,470 people aged 55 to 90 who had participated in an earlier study designed to look for markers of Alzheimers disease.

    At the outset, study volunteers were categorized as being free of memory and thinking problems, or in the early stages of mild cognitive impairment, or with Alzheimers disease.

    The researchers found that sleep apnea was associated with a much quicker decline in cognitive function. But there was some good news from the study: Treatment for breathing problems during sleep appears to be protective, delaying the onset of MCI by approximately 10 years.

    Essentially, this meant that people who got treated declined at the same speed as people who didnt have apnea at all, Varga said. The treatment can include machines that help people breath better as they sleep.

    Its not clear yet exactly how sleep apnea is damaging the brain.

    Studies have shown that sleep apnea is associated with repetitive drops in the blood oxygen level, which can affect various organs in the body differently, said Dr. Charles Atwood, a sleep specialist and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

    And, as it turns out, low oxygen levels may hurt some parts of the brain more than others.

    New Study Reinforces Sleep Apnea

    HealthDay Reporter

    SUNDAY, March 3, 2019 — Millions of Americans are left drowsy each day by sleep apnea, and new research suggests it might also raise their odds for Alzheimer’s disease.

    It isn’t clear, however, if sleep apnea causes the buildup of “tau” protein tangles in the brain that are a marker for Alzheimer’s, or if the increased tau helps cause the apnea, the researchers said.

    “Since tau accumulation is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, an increase in tau raises concern that sleep apnea could make with sleep apnea more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s,” said lead researcher Dr. Diego Carvalho, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

    The new study — to be presented at an upcoming meeting of the American Academy of Neurology — is consistent with previous work suggesting that sleep apnea increases the risk for dementia, he said.

    “However, it is also possible that Alzheimer’s disease could predispose people to sleep apnea or that there is a bidirectional relationship between sleep apnea and Alzheimer’s disease,” Carvalho said.

    Obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic condition that can cause breathing to stop frequently during sleep. Tau, a protein that forms tangles in the brain, is found in people with Alzheimer’s.

    In addition, the researchers asked participants’ bed partners if they ever had seen them experiencing sleep apnea; 43 participants who had such episodes were identified.


    The study was supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

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    Why Do Alzheimers Patients Struggle With Sleep

    Changes in sleep quality and duration in older age are common. However, the sleep concerns seen in people with Alzheimers are often more severe and complex. There may be a reciprocal relationship between sleep issues and the other symptoms of Alzheimers. This means that sleep loss can worsen other symptoms, such as delusions, restlessness, and wandering, which can, in turn, make sleeping more difficult.

    Getting enough sleep and spending sufficient time in deep sleep and rapid eye movement sleep are necessary in order for preservation of memories to occur. Memory loss is the primary symptom in people living with Alzheimers, and compared to older adults without the disease, Alzheimers patients spend progressively less time in deep sleep and REM sleep.

    People with Alzheimers experience dramatic changes to their sleep-wake cycle. The sleep-wake cyclealso called circadian rhythmis the internal clock in our body that initiates physical processes related to wake and sleep. When this cycle is disturbed in Alzheimers patients, the result is not sleeping at night and sleeping too much during the day. Researchers attribute circadian rhythm disruption in Alzheimers patients, at least in part, to cellular changes in the brain caused by the disease. Dysregulated production of the sleep hormone, melatonin, in patients with Alzheimers may play a role. Other possible factors include decreased physical activity and less natural light exposure.

    Can Sleep Apnea Lead To Alzheimers Disease

    Breaking: “Sleep Apnea Linked To Alzheimer Disease”

    Can the amount of sleep you get impact your risk of developing Alzheimer’s? Recent studies suggest that there is indeed a link between sleep apnea and Alzheimer’s.;Sleep apnea is a breathing condition where a person stops breathing multiple times during the night, resulting in poor quality sleep and fatigue during the day. Sleep apnea has been linked to a host of health problems, including high blood pressure, risk of stroke, and heart disease. It should be no surprise that it is now linked to Alzheimer’s as well. Let’s learn more about these studies and what you can do to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s.

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    Is There A Link Between Early Onset Dementia And Sleep Apnea

    If you suffer from sleep apnea, you are most likely familiar with the brain fog, excessive daytime sleepiness, and other mental and cognitive symptoms that come with this sleeping disorder.

    However, new research is indicating that chronic sleep apnea may cause ongoing issues, as well. A recent study showed evidence of a link between sleep apnea and early-onset dementia.

    People with Obstructive Sleep Apnea showed brain changes that were similar to those of people suffering from the early stages of dementia. While a causal link has not been established, the connection between sleep apnea and dementia is becoming better understood. Over time, research in this area may help people reduce their risk of dementia.

    New Research Connecting Sleep Apnea To Alzheimers Disease

    Neurologists have been studying the relationship between sleep disorders, long-term sleep deprivation, and increased signs of dementia for a number of years. Data points to a link from disrupted sleep patterns and lack of oxygen to faulty memory and brain function.

    At the latest annual meeting held by the American Academy of Neurology, scientists from the Mayo Clinic presented evidence of a link specifically to Alzheimers. The disease is a progressive form of dementia which damages memory and inhibits other crucial mental functions.

    This new study revealed that older adults who have been reported to stop breathing while asleep have higher amounts of a certain biomarker know as tau. Because accumulated tau is a sign of Alzheimers, the doctors fear that it means that people suffering from obstructive sleep apnea are more at risk for the disease.

    Related article:How Deep Sleep Protects Against Alzheimers Disease.

    In a healthy brain, the tau protein helps transport nutrients in neurons. In patients with Alzheimers, however, tau deposits make tangles inside the neurons. These abnormal formations then begin to block communication between synapses and inhibit normal brain function. Scientists have hypothesized that Alzheimers disease, in part, is caused by high levels of tau in the area of the brain that is key to memory and the understanding of time.

    Watch this video to learn more about how continuing sleep apnea therapy can delay the onset of Alzheimers symptoms.

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    Sleep Deficits And Dementia

    Individuals with sleep apnea often have long-term sleep deficits. They dont sleep long enough because they are woken up frequently throughout the night. Research has shown a U-shaped curve with regards to sleep length and cognitive decline.;;

    What this means is that dementia can develop when you sleep too little or too much.; That said, lack of sleep is associated with a much higher risk of developing dementia.

    Earlier, we talked about dementia being related to a buildup of a protein in your brains blood vessels. Even one night of serious sleep loss raises the levels of this protein, and long-term build-up leads to Alzheimers.;;

    With sleep apnea, your slow-wave sleep, or restorative sleep cycles, are disturbed, which plays a critical role in the retention of memories and learning new information.

    The Risks Of Untreated Sleep Apnea

    Sleep Apnea & Dementia Linked Together.

    One of Shakespeares characters called sleep the chief nourisher in lifes feast. He was right! During sleep, the body actively repairs and restores itself. Lack of oxygen during sleep interferes with memory formation, blood pressure regulation, and weight control.

    Untreated apnea is associated with increased risk for dementia, stroke or heart attack. In one study, persons with sleep apnea had a 30 percent higher risk of heart attack or death than those without apnea.

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    Relationship Between Ad Pathology In The Hippocampus And The Brainstem

    In 22 brains, autopsy samples were available from both the hippocampus and from the brainstem at the level of the pons. Of these, 16 brains had tau in both sites, 4 had tau only in the brainstem, no brains had tau only in the hippocampus, and 2 had tau in neither location. Of the brains with brainstem tau, 15/16 had tau specifically in the LC. A plaque deposition was less consistent. Of the 22 brains that had samples from both locations, 2 had A plaques in both locations, 7 had A plaques in the hippocampus only, 2 had A plaques in the brainstem only, and 11 had no A plaques. Fishers Exact Tests for independence found no significant relationship between the distributions of pathology in the hippocampus and brainstem for tau or A , suggesting that no direct relationship exists between the presence of these neuropathological features in the two regions. However, the small sample size is a limitation, and given the trend for a significant relationship for tau pathology, this result should be viewed with caution until confirmed in a larger sample.

    Sleep Apnea May Make Dementia Worse

    These biological connections may mean that the two disorders play off each other, sleep apnea making Alzheimers worse and vice versa.

    In 2015, a study from researchers at New York University found that people with sleep apnea, on average, were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment 10 years before their peers who didnt have the breathing disorder ^3.

    The sleep apnea patients in the study also seemed to experience an accelerated timeline for Alzheimers disease. People with the disorder who developed Alzheimers disease were diagnosed five years sooner on average than the non-sleep apnea sufferers.

    Degeneration of the neural pathways that regulate sleep and the cycle of sleep and wake could be responsible for sleep apnea in Alzheimers patients. Sleep apnea could contribute to neural dysregulation through low oxygen levels or through alterations to blood vessels triggered by the bodys response to sleep apneas disrupted sleep and plunging oxygen levels.

    However, the exact nature of the relationship between Alzheimers disease and sleep apnea still needs further exploration. It will be important to prove for sure whether or not optimal sleep decreases risk for Alzheimers disease and whether poor sleep increases risk, Holtzman says. It will also be important to know whether specific treatments targeting sleep can decrease ones risk for Alzheimers disease.;

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    Link Between Alzheimer’s Disease And Sleep Apnea Discovered In Brain Tissue

    Decades before symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are detected, molecular changes are afoot in the brain. Clumps of amyloid-beta and tangles of another protein called tau start to accumulate in places, becoming stark hallmarks of a gradual decline in brain health.

    Alzheimer-like amyloid plaques have also been found in brain tissue samples of people diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder where a person’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts. Now, a study has revealed a correlation in the locations of these clumpy proteins.

    While scientists already knew the two conditions are related, this first-of-its-kind study provides the gritty details of brain involvement.

    “We know that if you have sleep apnea in mid-life, you’re more likely to develop Alzheimer’s when you’re older, and if you have Alzheimer’s you are more likely to have sleep apnea than other people your age,” said one of the research team, Stephen Robinson, a neuroscientist researching sleep disorders at RMIT University in Australia.

    People with obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of sleep apnea, can also experience shortfalls in memory, a classic feature of Alzheimer’s disease, and have a higher risk of developing dementia.

    “The connection is there but untangling the causes and biological mechanisms remains a huge challenge,” Robinson said.

    Amyloid plaques stained brown in brain tissue .

    As with all good research, the findings prompt more questions and future studies.


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